By Chris Servais
For local artist Elizabeth Buset, context is key. Her large, evocative pieces can be found at many locations in Thunder Bay, including Lakehead University, Tomlin, Espresso Joya, and her own gallery on Dufferin Street by the Sunken Gardens. Buset is also a member of the Thunder Bay Public Art Committee, a full-time educator at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and is on the board of directors of Definitely Superior Art Gallery. “I don’t feel it’s really productive to work in a bubble,” says Buset. “I know some artists work that way, but for me, part of the work that I do is to explore the community aspect and that’s very important to me. To recognize my audience and that this isn’t a personal journal or a biography or something private—it’s very much a public act. So I’m very conscious of that while I work.”
Buset credits her development of this mindset to her graduate work overseas. She received her masters at a political art school in Helsinki, which stressed the application of art as a tool to shape society. Her education also solidified her artistic technique of pulling simple, everyday objects out of their typical contexts and using them in unexpected ways. Her work borrows heavily from the school of social realism, while also maintaining a level of directness and simplicity that allows it to speak to a broader audience. “For me, I always feel like I’m painting for those people who aren’t necessarily art literate, and don’t have to have studied art to appreciate a piece that says something to them. I try to use a clean aesthetic, almost like billboard or advertising. There is a lot of subtle, sometimes dark humour there as well. Some people love them, some people are really offended by them, but it’s always interesting to me to get that feedback from people about what kind of meaning they take from the work. Any reaction is a good reaction.”
Buset’s current project received Northern Arts funding and deals with consumerism and overconsumption. She further describes it as a “satirical portrait” and plans to have it completed by fall of next year where she will showcase a solo exhibition at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
For more of Buset’s work visit elizabethbuset.com